'Minimalism' is a word we frequently hear used outside the world of the art gallery, and is therefore perhaps more familiar to us than some other art terms. It is often used in discussion about style in general: for example, a chic sparse interior with white walls and simple furniture may be described as 'minimalist'. It is also sometimes used in a humorous or disparaging sense to describe something that is less than expected or under par.
So, what about 'Minimalism' when applied to art? 'Minimalism' describes a type of abstract art that emerged in the late 1950s when artists such as Frank Stella, who’s Black Paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959, began to turn away from the gestural art of the previous generation. It flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt and Robert Morris becoming the movement's most important innovators.
We usually think of art as representing an aspect of the real world (a landscape, a person, or even a tin of soup!); or reflecting an experience such as an emotion or feeling. With Minimalism, no attempt is made to represent an outside reality; the artist wants the viewer to respond only to what is in front of them. The medium (or material) from which it is made, and the form of the work is the reality. Minimalist painter Frank Stella famously said about his paintings 'What you see is what you see'.
Minimalism is characterized by single or repeated geometric forms. It usually takes the form of sculpture or installation, though there are a number of Minimalist painters as well.